I got pretty frustrated today, almost to the point of crying.
It was over something quite silly, but important to me nonetheless.
The last few days I’ve been trying to understand this Theory of Story called Dramatica. I really started to get into it and see how different characters blend different archetypes and how every story can be understood in terms of its specific thematic components blah blah blah.
Anyway I was really hoping that by understanding Dramatica I would have the tools to assess and restructure any story. However last night I hit a huge wall and so far have not been able to get through it. The theory is just too dense, too undercommunicated, too stricken of helpful examples.
I can’t get my my head around it.
The main problem is the presentation of the “chessboard”, a huge three dimensional grid with interlocking components not unlike a Rubix Cube. There end up being 64 “elements” that intertwine with the 4 different main story threads and it doesn’t make any sense without pre-knowledge of how it all works together.
In order to get Dramatica, you have to essentially memorize these 64 elements (plus the top level layers) which don’t always mean what you would assume they do.
People claim it takes years to master this theory. Supposedly it is versatile enough to describe every possible story by boiling stories down to their most generic parts. It could be good/useful/significant if it weren’t so ethereal to pin down. Perhaps where it shines the most is its ability to identify weak story structure and make suggestions on how to fix it.
Sadly there’s too much good in the theory to completely write it off, but too much complexity to know whether it’s truly worth “years” of investment. Plus, I’ve read the book so what is there left but for me to keep re-reading it in the hopes of getting it next time?
What I could really need is better examples to explain the confusing terminology, a better understanding of how all the puzzle pieces of theory fit together, and more working films/stories actually explained by the theory without having to scour the humungous Dramatica dictionary.
It’s a beautiful theory overshadowed by needless confusion and complexity. Maybe my breakthrough will come in time or maybe not. Surely Dramatica has a perfect little box to describe my ambivalence.